Baltimore Orioles: Did Showalter outthink himself with Mychal Givens?

I tweeted last night that Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter had pushed all the right buttons with reliever Mychal Givens the previous two games. Givens of course was brought in to pitch in a tight spot on Monday night, and got out of it. He was then brought in last night to complete the seventh inning after starter Kevin Gausman allowed a base runner. But did my observation end up being famous last words?

Gausman pitched a great game last night, and was well deserving of being the winner. Gausman’s line: 6.1 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K. For once it was an opponent racking up double-digit strikeouts against the O’s. The only real struggle that Gausman had was the sixth inning when he had two runners in scoring position with nobody out. But he buckled down and struck out the next three batters, leaving those runners on base.

Gausman was getting his fastball over for strikes. That included his two-seamer, which was deadly and induced swing-and-misses. His off-speed breaking pitches were just as deadly, and almost always induced a weak flail at the ball from a Chicago hitter. It was a dominant performance, which as I said was well deserving of a victory.

And for most of the game it appeared that Gausman was going to get that victory. The Orioles got an RBI-double from Trumbo, and an RBI-groundout from Peterson in the second inning. They led 2-0 most of the way. They also had an opportunity to extend that lead in the fifth, however Chance Sisco was doubled off of second in a base running mistake. Those are the types of things you have to put up with from young players, but they hurt you when they happen at the big league level.

And as I said, Buck Showalter seemed to press just the right buttons with the bullpen when he brought Mychal Givens in to complete the seventh inning. He then proceeded to bring Givens back out for the eighth, which raised my eyebrows a bit. While you want to use as few relievers as possible, why not go to a set up type guy in that spot?

When Givens came back out for the eighth Palka hit what appeared to be a solo homer. The Orioles only wish they had been that lucky. The ball didn’t carry, and instead headed for the right field corner. Mark Trumbo made a valiant attempt at the ball, but it slipped out of his glove (keep in mind that Trumbo was playing shaded to center, so he had a lot of ground to cover to get that ball). Castillo followed with a bloop RBI-single (which was softly hit and barely made it past a fielder’s glove) that cut the Orioles’ lead to 2-1.

Chicago would put together two more RBI-singles in the inning, taking a 3-2 lead – which ended up being the final. Make no mistake about the fact that a loss like that is frustrating. Chicago wore the Orioles down in the end with their tenacity and their refusal to go away. They also faced pitchers in Givens and Richard Bleier who were tired. As I said, I thought that Givens shouldn’t have come out for the eighth.

The question at hand is whether Buck outthought himself a bit there. My point would be that it’s unfair for someone like me to be overly critical of a career baseball guy as accomplished as he is. Does that mean I would have started the eighth inning with a new pitcher had it been my decision? Yes. But Showalter had his reasons when asked why he kept Givens in and used Bleier as opposed to bringing someone else in, as he explained after the game (quote courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):

Compared to who? We don’t have Darren (O’Day), we don’t have Zach (Britton). Those are our best options right now and they’ve done a good job for us.

The series continues tonight in Chicago. Alex Cobb gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Chicago’s Dylan Covey. Game time is set for just after 8 PM.

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